What a waste of resources - Research report on waste metal recycling

A lot of money could be saved by reusing and recycling waste metal and cutting fluids more efficiently. These are the findings of a report from research carried out on behalf of Nederman in the United Kingdom.

This research report, first published in 2012, specifies a number of measures which could improve profitability for the British metalworking industry and at the same time clearly reduce companies’ environmental impact. Most major industrial corporations are now dealing with their waste metal. However, a combination of greater environmental awareness, more stringent legislation and rising raw material prices, as well as an increasingly strong recycling industry have created a situation in which the actual degree of recycling is not the most interesting aspect to consider. Instead, emphasis should be placed on how efficient the actual recycling and reuse process is.

A model with five companies representing different industries illustrates what benefits could be achieved. This model includes a car manufacturer and an aircraft component manufacturer. It also includes component manufacturers which use steel (a tool manufacturer), aluminum (a furniture manufacturer) and brass (a door accessory manufacturer).

Simply recycling the metal does not maximize profits. Companies can lose hundreds of pounds for every tonne of swarf sent for recycling. The amount of money lost depends on which metal is used and the type and amount of cutting fluid left in the waste metal. Most important for any manufacturer is to include in the calculations the value of reusing and recycling cutting fluid, adding the cost of transporting the waste to the recycling: see the adjacent facts box.

Organizations which have carried out profitability analyses could benefit from carrying out new analyses looking at the longer term. Variations in raw material prices will affect the calculation. The price of aluminum has varied by 137 per cent between its highest and lowest levels over the past decade. For a car manufacturer, the return on investment time can be halved if the price of metal is set at the right time. As finite resources are involved, it is likely that the long-term price trend will rise but the spot market price will vary with economic fluctuations.

Changes in the need for products and technologies may also have a massive impact on metal prices.

When assessing future changes to metal prices and materials, it is also wise to future-proof the recycling system itself. Of course, companies should adopt an overall perspective to allow them to see what sustainability gains can be made in total.

The full research report on waste management and recycling of metal can be downloaded here.

Separating swarf from cutting fluid makes recycling of both profitable.

Formula for profitability

The profitability of reusing and recycling metal for a manufacturing industry is influenced primarily by

the following factors:

  • The condition of the waste metal and how it is processed for recycling
  • How the cutting fluid in the manufacturing process is handled for reuse and recycling
  • How the above affects related costs for recycling, such as for transporting the waste metal.

This is why a formula for increased profitability has been devised in the report:(

 (AxB) + (CxD) + E = greater profitability

A represents the increase in the value of the waste metal processed

B represents the volume of waste metal

C represents the value of the reused cutting fluid, or the saving made by using recycled cutting fluid

D represents the volume of cutting fluid reused

E is the reduction of the cost of transport thanks to the fact that the waste metal can be compressed

as much as possible. 

Contact us if you want to discuss how we can help you optimize your metal recycling.